If you have been paying attention to the news lately, you have probably heard about the dire situation pollinators are in, and it’s not just monarchs. Insect population counts around the world are dwindling, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. While the monarch butterfly is currently under consideration for endangered species listing, eight other pollinator species in the United States have been added to the endangered species list since 2016. Not only do our agricultural systems rely on these mighty workers (one in three bites of food we eat is thanks to pollinators), but our local ecosystems do as well. The habitat that sustains monarchs is vital for other pollinators, wildlife and many important ecosystem services that support us, and our environment.
Many people and organizations understand the urgency for action to conserve our pollinators. The Monarch Joint Venture has over 80 partner organizations working together to ensure monarchs, and their critical habitat, persists for generations. A recent survey by our partner the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) shows that the public has also heard this call and is looking for ways to get involved to save our pollinators.
NRPA has launched Parks for Pollinators, a national campaign focused on raising public awareness of the current pollinator crisis, encouraging local action, and positioning parks as a national leader in advancing pollinator health. The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation supported the launch of this program, including sponsoring a national survey to determine the public’s knowledge of pollinators, protection strategies and to determine if the public understood how their personal actions can make a difference.
Two different surveys were conducted, a national online omnibus survey and an in-person public survey conducted in park agencies throughout the country. The results of the two surveys are important in helping us educate and support communities making a difference for pollinators.
The first omnibus survey tells a very encouraging story, but also highlights that we have work to do. Over 1,000 nationally representative adults, aged 18 and over, were surveyed online during this summer. The results stated that nearly all (95%) agreed that communities should make special efforts to create designated areas for plants to support the health and growth of pollinators – with more than two thirds expressing strong agreement with this statement. With such strong support for planting for pollinators, we know that expanding efforts to protect pollinators will be well-received by the American public and opens doors for new habitat, education, and research initiatives.
However, while most Americans (66%) indicate that they want to see pollinator efforts made in and by the community, they are not completely confident in knowing what to do when it comes to their own actions to conserve pollinators. More than half of all people surveyed were not confident in what actions they could take to help pollinators.
The second survey found similar results. Five park agencies in Chicago, Houston, Miami-Dade County, Providence and Seattle conducted this survey with adults visiting the parks in their communities. Over 800 people were surveyed, with at least 100 participants from each location. Questions ranged from basic pollinator knowledge, to steps they take at home to help pollinators (if any), to how they would like to learn more about pollinators and habitat.
These results showed that the vast majority of participants were knowledgeable about pollinators and issues negatively affecting them. Almost all (94%) agreed their personal actions play a role in the health of pollinators. When participants were asked what barriers prevent them from helping pollinators, over half (56%) stated they were not sure where to start or that they needed more information on how to help.
Regardless of their knowledge, a clear majority (82%) responded they would follow suggested actions to help protect pollinators if shown quick, easy and inexpensive ways. Ninety percent of respondents also stated they already do something to support pollinators, such as planting native pollinator-friendly, plants, buying and using organic, natural cleaning and gardening products, planting colorful flowers and looking for outdoor garden products free of pesticides that are harmful to insects.
Finally, nearly all respondents (96%) indicated they would like to learn more about pollinators and their habitat. Topics such as the types of pollinators found in their areas, gardening tips to encourage pollinators to visit, and finding gardening products that will reduce harm to pollinators being the most sought-after knowledge.
While there is an abundance of information to comb through, these surveys tell a great story. The public overwhelmingly supports initiatives that help pollinators and pollinator health, but they are looking for information and ways they can help make a difference. We have an opportunity to effect real change in our communities by educating people about how they can help pollinators thrive.
Through a multitude of educational offerings, any person or organization can find ways to share knowledge with their community to encourage local action. Many people and partners are already deeply engaged in education and outreach about pollinators, and we salute you! These findings show us that this work is important. Whether through hosting workshops, partnering with local conservation groups, providing general education, posting signage, joining a citizen science project, or talking to neighbors and community members- we can all make a difference!
This News Update has been modified from an original article written by Michele White, CAE, IOM, an NRPA Program Manager. Contact Michele if you have questions about this survey or about Parks for Pollinators.
Wakefield Research conducted the survey and provided the following statement about the survey representation: “Our studies are designed and fielded so that a sample of 1000 Americans reflects the demographic makeup of the United States. In other words, we ensure that the key demographics, such as gender, age, race, ethnicity, [and] region are reflective of benchmarks provided by the United States Census.”
The Monarch Joint Venture is a national partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses and academic programs working together to conserve the monarch butterfly migration. The content in this article does not necessarily reflect the positions of all Monarch Joint Venture partners. Photos in order by Wendy Caldwell, Sandy Sagalkin, Debi Nitka.